Display is the New Black

Welcome to the new Flite blog! This introductory post is the first of many that we plan to write about our company, technology, client successes, and the dynamics of the display ad market at large.

We are very bullish on the future of the display ad market. Importantly, we are not alone. A perfect storm of technology innovation and strategic interest is driving renewed enthusiasm for display advertising.

Define enthusiasm? Google’s Neal Mohan forecasts the display ad market will grow by five times, from today’s $8bn market, as improved creative, targeting, and analytic technologies drive increased efficiency and value.

Where are we today? Despite the industry’s scale and size, the nature of today’s banner ads remains virtually unchanged from the very first banner ads of 15 years ago - pictures of products that increasingly fail to capture the interest of consumers nor the nature of today’s web.

Traditional banner ads are akin to highway billboards - static combinations of text and images - designed to encourage the driver/consumer to take the next exit and visit the advertiser’s location.  The creative process, therefore, focused on building the “perfect” creative - one that best captured the product, the call to action, and the brand’s goals.  Given, that ads were developed for a seasonal or temporal campaign, the creative process sought to build the “best” possible set of assets and to then pass them onto media planners for distribution to relevant sites and media properties.

Two big changes make the concept of “finished” creative a relic. The first is the rise of the real-time web - Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blog posts, polls, etc.  The second is analytics and retargeting.

Brands are no longer investing in “snap shots” of their brand, but rather in conversations with their target audience, whereby the “creative” is the dialog. The real-time web requires a shift in perspective regarding creative from something that is fixed to something that is programmed by ongoing marketing initiatives.  The brand does not seek solely to craft a static campaign that will live through the season, but rather it is also investing in daily, even hourly, updates that build on the brand experience.  Creative, therefore, needs to reflect this change in frequency of message and provide a way to reflect the real-time brand in the creative being trafficked.  Creative also needs to reflect the two-way nature of conversations and the ability of the web to amplify said conversations through social sharing.  Erich Schmidt is a huge believer in the future of display advertising.  He recently commented that “…such ads, which would appear anywhere on a Web page, not just inside a video, would be like mini-Web pages. That means they could allow users to watch a video, leave a comment and see real-time updates with the ads that are more customized to their interests.

Since marketing communications occur each and every day, the traditional and serial process of locking down creative is not as relevant.  And since these changes are real-time, the creative must become a living asset that can be programmed by the brand’s marketing channels.  This is a huge change and means that traditional creative will not work.

The second key change is analytics and retargeting.  Rather than design the “optimal” creative, brands are leveraging dynamic creative solutions that seek to personalize ads based on retargeting and analytic optimizations.   Each ad load can be programmed and “designed” based on observed behavior to date over the life of a campaign, information known about a given web surfer, and other variables.  Ads, therefore, become a set of programmable configuration options - with the final configuration of a given ad impression occurring at run-time.

Flite is working to leverage both trends - the shift from episodic to real-time banner ad marketing and the reality that “perfect” creative is evolutionary and will be a combination of a series of defaults combined with a series of variables that the web at large will program.

We are proud to be working with the web’s leading publishers and brands to redefine banner advertising. Watch this space for future posts and updates.